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Cornelius Boots

Forest Knolls, CA   

Cornelius Boots is a soul-based, no-limits shakuhachi performer-composer. He is an emerging shakuhachi master and visionary composer of occult gospel, woodwind spirituals and new nature music. His 2017 (March) solo album Holy Flute expands his growing presence as a fresh, authentic voice in the spheres of shakuhachi, composition, creative woodwind performance—jazz, new music, world and beyond—spiritual ecology and Zen Buddhism.

Active internationally since 1990, Boots has trained, taught, recorded and lectured in depth within jazz, rock, chamber, orchestral, experimental and Zen traditional music. His compositions are inspired by occult philosophy, deep nature study, the reverence and heart of gospel and blues, and the energy and structure of heavy metal and rock, with a strong emphasis on creativity and aliveness.

Boots has received awards and commissions from Chamber Music America, the International Clarinet Association, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the International Songwriting Competition, Areon Flutes and Crescent Duo, among others. Formerly a world-renowned bass clarinet virtuoso, Cornelius now focuses his performances on the robust, difficult-yet-expressive bamboo flute of Zen Buddhism—the shakuhachi—and its baritone brother, the Taimu. Shaping wild music energy on this one-piece nature flute, he is actively adding original compositions and arrangements to the traditional, chant-based solo repertoire. Recent concerts and classes have been presented at Esalen, Tokyo, University of Mississippi, University of Memphis and Southern Oregon University as well as conferences and festivals in Assisi (Italy) and Prague.

After completing three music degrees in 1999 (BM Clarinet Performance ‘97, BS Audio Recording ’97, MM Jazz Studies ‘99) at the prestigious Jacobs School of Music, Boots led rock and chamber groups in Chicago and San Francisco, including the ground-breaking bass clarinet quartet Edmund Welles, with whom he released four albums and an instructional CD-ROM (all of which continue to generate sales over the past ten years). In 2001, Boots began studying shakuhachi with Grandmaster Michael Chikuzen Gould, and in 2013 he earned a Shihan (master) license within the dokyoku lineage of Watazumido. He now carries forward this high-caliber, living Zen shakuhachi tradition in order to connect it to modern audiences. Cornelius has written 27 original compositions especially for teaching, performance and meditation purposes on the bigger, lower Taimu flutes and has featured these compositions on five albums: Sabbaticus Rex (2009), Mukyoku: New Pieces for Taimu (2010), Sabbaticus Rex II (2012), Mountain Hermit’s Secret Wisdom (2013) and Holy Flute (2017).

Cornelius’ compositions or performances have been featured in the films Cicada Princess, Visions of Mustang, and Beard Club. He has presented classes at San Francisco Conservatory, Cal Arts, and UCLA, and has been teaching privately since 1997. Cornelius also leads the improvisational, elemental sound-structuring ensemble Sabbaticus Rex . 

Boots resides in Forest Knolls in Marin County, CA and is currently on the contemplative (slow) track to earn his Master of Divinity in Buddhist Ministry from Buddha Dharma University’s Zen Seminary. In 2012 he was given the professional shakuhachi name Shinzen, 深禅, meaning “depth Zen.” Cornelius’ extensive and diverse list of musical influences prominently features Ronnie James Dio, Eric Dolphy, Pink Floyd, Fishbone and Etta James. Cornelius is a member and supporter of the World Flute Society, the International Shakuhachi Society, Science and Nonduality and Save the Redwoods.

Cornelius is endorsed by Vandoren and affiliated with Mujitsu Shakuhachi and Chikuzen Studios.

“He’s not just an amazing musician, he’s like a mystic with a tube in his face.”
–Maurizio Benazzo, co-founder, Science and Nonduality

 “I have never so clearly felt the internal power of unamplified sound. Cornelius’ flutes are a revelation of the inner life of breath and an antidote to a world gone mad and breathless.”
–Nils Frykdahl (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Faun Fables, Idiot Flesh)

“I felt the spectacular nature and the universe from your playing and I was able to know a Japan that I haven’t known.  I felt the power that clears the human mind in your music.”
–Sou Natsukawa, Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience at Omotesando, Tokyo

Blacken the Cursed Sun

Extreme Metal song by Lamb of God: transcribed, adapted and arranged for solo shakuhachi. Live in Berkeley May 11, 2013.

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Edmund Welles: the bass clarinet quartet

Founded by composer-performer Cornelius Boots in 1996, Edmund Welles was the world’s first and only composing bass clarinet quartet. Active in the San Francisco Bay Area from 2003-2014, Edmund Welles released four albums and created over 40 original compositions and 20 arrangements for this underserved instrumentation. Members and subs have included Aaron Novik, Jonathan Russell, Jeff Anderle, Sheldon Brown, Scott Hill, Rachel Condry, Cory Wright, Beth Custer, Ben Goldberg, Stephan Vermeersch, Peter Josheff, Cece Dietlein, and Jacob Lindsay.

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Void of Day: Chthonic Flute Suite (part 3) by Cornelius Boots

Commissioned by Areon Flutes as part of a four-movement suite in 2012, this piece can also be performed on its own depending on the flute ensemble’s performance needs. Released on the 2016 Innova Records album Thrive, this Chthonic Flute Suite is based on the writings of Jungian and archetypal psychologist James Hillman, in particular his book Dream and the Underworld. In his underworld, there are images/souls that actively desire the things they can’t get such as blood (thymos) and breath (phrenes): flutes engage both fully.

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